The pleural is the membrane that lines the thoracic (chest) cavity and covers the lungs. It is like a large sheet of tissue that wraps around the outside of the lungs and lines the inside of the chest cavity.
The pleura is a thin tissue covered by a layer of cells (mesothelial cells) that surrounds the lungs and lines the inside of the chest wall. The pleural space is the area between the lungs and the chest wall. It is normally at subatmospheric pressure, which keeps the lungs inflated. The normal pleural space has only a few milliliters of liquid, which helps lubricate the normal to and fro motion of the lungs during breathing. Fluid, air, and particles can move into the pleural space from different parts of the body because of its low pressure and its ability to hold large amounts of liquid or air. Pleural effusion (large amounts of liquid in the pleural space) or pneumothorax (air in the pleural space) can lead to a partial or complete compression of the lung. If a tear or hole develops in the lung, air escapes into the pleural space, causing a pneumothorax. Sometimes, air goes into the pleural space and is trapped there under high pressure, causing a “tension pneumothorax” that can stop blood from returning to the heart and lead to death if not recognized and treated promptly. In addition, inhaled toxic particles such as asbestos can move into the pleural space where, decades later, mesothelioma can develop.
There are several types of pleural diseases, including:
Pleurisy - an infection of the pleural cavity
Pleural effusion - the buildup of pleural fluid in the pleural cavity
Pneumothorax - the presence of air or gas in the pleural cavity
Hemothorax - the presence of blood in the pleural cavity
Symptoms of pleurisy may include:
Shortness of breath
Fever and chills
Rapid, shallow breathing
Unexplained weight loss
Sore throat that is followed by joint swelling and soreness
A pleural effusion is an unusual amount of fluid around the lung. There are many medical conditions that can lead to it, so even though your pleural effusion may have to be drained, your doctor likely will target the treatment at whatever caused it.
The pleura is a thin membrane that lines the surface of the lungs and the inside of the chest wall outside the lungs. In pleural effusions, fluid builds up in the space between the layers of pleura.
Normally, only teaspoons of watery fluid are in the pleural space, allowing the lungs to move smoothly within the chest cavity during breathing.
Typically, pleural effusion causes no symptoms.
Symptoms of pneumothorax include:
Sudden sharp pain that worsens with deep breathing
Shortness of breath
Fast heart rate
Bluish skin color (called cyanosis)
A pneumothorax (noo-moe-THOR-aks) is a collapsed lung. A pneumothorax occurs when air leaks into the space between your lung and chest wall. This air pushes on the outside of your lung and makes it collapse. In most cases, only a portion of the lung collapses.
A pneumothorax can be caused by a blunt or penetrating chest injury, certain medical procedures, or damage from underlying lung disease. Or it may occur for no obvious reason. Symptoms usually include sudden chest pain and shortness of breath. On some occasions, a collapsed lung can be a life-threatening event.
Treatment for a pneumothorax usually involves inserting a flexible tube or needle between the ribs to remove the excess air. However, a small pneumothorax may heal on its own.